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Hundreds of thousands take to streets of Lebanon

2019-10-21 HKT 02:43
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  • Huge crowds take to the streets of Beirut for its biggest protest yet. Photo: AP
    Huge crowds take to the streets of Beirut for its biggest protest yet. Photo: AP
Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese took to the streets to condemn political stasis and corruption on Sunday, the largest in four days of demonstrations that have crippled the country and threatened the coalition government.

The protests showed no sign of letting up, a day before a deadline set by Prime Minister Saad Hariri for government members to rally around key reforms.

The capital Beirut, second city Tripoli in the north and the southern port of Tyre came to a standstill, with streets filled with protesters waving the national flag, chanting "revolution" or "the people demand the fall of the regime" – a common refrain of demonstrations in other parts of the Arab world.

Protests have grown steadily across the Mediterranean country since public anger first spilled onto the streets Thursday evening in response to a proposed tax on calls via WhatsApp and other messaging services.

While the government quickly dropped the plan, the leaderless protests morphed into demands for a sweeping overhaul of the political system, with grievances ranging from austerity measures to poor infrastructure.

More than a quarter of Lebanon's population lives below the poverty line, the World Bank says, while the political class has remained relatively unchanged since the end of a devastating 15-year civil war in 1990.

In Beirut, protesters on Sunday called out the names of specific politicians from across the country's sectarian system, with the crowd responding with swear words.

A protester who gave his name as Mustafa said he had been in the street for three days. "I will continue to protest because I want a future in this country and I want to live in dignity," he said. (AFP)